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New Book Looks at Key Moments in Historic 2008 Election

Judy Woodruff speaks with authors Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson about their new book, "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election," which examines Obama's historic election.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now the story behind the stories of last year's historic and consequential presidential campaign. Judy Woodruff recently sat down with Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson to discuss their new book, "The Battle for America 2008." They spoke at the Knight Studio at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Dan Balz, Haynes Johnson, thank you both. The book is "The Battle for America 2008." And it says it right here on the cover, "The Story of an Extraordinary Election." You write there may not have been an election of this significance since 1980, maybe since 1932. Haynes, why?

    HAYNES JOHNSON, co-author, "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election": Well, I think the issues before the country were such that you couldn't even see where we were going. The country was in trouble. The economy was tanking. People were turned off on politics. America's standing was going down in the world. The Bush administration had sunk from the highest level accorded in the polls, 90 percent after the World Trade Center, down to where Nixon was when he resigns. And Americans are the most optimistic people in the world. They were not optimistic across the board. It didn't matter where you were, whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, moderate or a liberal, conservative. They all felt the country was in deep trouble. And they were worried about the future. So, that set the stage for a dramatically important election. The stakes were tremendous. And they're even greater today.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And not to mention, Dan, an historic election in so many ways.

    DAN BALZ, co-author, "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election": So many ways, Judy. That's exactly right. The cast of characters in this election made it historic, the first African-American with a real chance to become president, the first woman with a chance to become president. And let's not forget about John McCain, a remarkable story, a POW, a war hero in a party that was in disarray and demoralized, trying to hold the party together that was in deep trouble.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You look at the three central characters of this book, Dan, in Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, full of contradiction. There's contradiction in each one of those stories. Hillary Clinton, presumptive — everybody presumed she was going to be the winner. And then there were these terrible mistakes made in her campaign. And, yet, she had the fortitude to keep fighting until the very end. Help us understand why.

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